Fish finders are incredibly valuable tools, and the more you learn about how to read them, the more successful your fishing trips will be. A key part of learning as angler is to go from trial and error to a more knowledge-based approach. Maybe you regularly catch at a certain spot with a certain presentation – but do you know why? A fish finder will help you understand not just your failures, but also your successes. And once you know this, you can recreate this success more easily.
With the Fish Symbol feature disabled, an angler can learn to distinguish between fish, vegetation, schools of baitfish or forage fish, debris, etc. Fish will usually appear on the screen as an arch. This is because the distance between the fish and the transducer changes as the boat passes over the fish (or the fish swims under the boat). When the fish enters the leading edge of the sonar beam, a display pixel is turned on. As the fish swims toward the centre of the beam, the distance to the fish decreases, turning on pixels at shallower depths. When the fish swims directly under the transducer, it is closer to the boat so the stronger signal shows a thicker line. As the fish swims away from the transducer, the distance increases, which shows as progressively deeper pixels.
The best value fish finder models that we have listed above are the most popular in 2014. All of them have high fish finder ratings and predominantly positive reviews of the users. According to your needs, one model or other might be a better choice for you. When you compare fish finders, you should consider your budget and the features you would like the fish finder you are looking for to have. Before choosing fish finder, you need to decide do you need a portable unit or a fixed one for mounting onto your boat. Also consider will a fish finder be sufficient for your needs or do you also need an integral GPS in the unit. We hope that with the information that I have provided in this best fish finder reviews, you will find a fish finder that will help you catch more fish.
Power output is measure in watts, often represented by the “W” symbol. With more power you’ll get clearer, more-accurate readings, and you’ll be able to find fish in deeper water. Units with limited power won’t always send the signal out far enough and you can get poor quality images. Look closely for a good power output and frequency options. The right combination can help you choose the right unit, based on overall ability. You’re looking for balance of depth, power and clarity of image.
Early sporting fathometers for recreational boating used a rotating light at the edge of a circle which flashed in sync with the received echo, which in turn corresponded to depth. These also gave a small flickering flash for echos off of fish. Like today's low-end digital fathometers, they kept no record of the depth over time and provided no information about bottom structure. They had poor accuracy, especially in rough water, and were hard to read in bright light. Despite the limitations, they were still usable for rough estimates of depth, such as for verifying that the boat had not drifted into an unsafe area.
The last model we would like to mention in our top 12 list is a model also from the Humminbird brand. It’s also one of the best inexpensive fish finder models. It comes with a black and white display. The sonar is dual beam and its frequency (200/455 kHz) allows viewing readings of depths of up to 600 feet. It’s also a small fish finder with the display being just 4 inches. The clear edge grayscale display clearly shows everything even in direct sunlight.
Fish finders are incredibly valuable tools, and the more you learn about how to read them, the more successful your fishing trips will be. A key part of learning as angler is to go from trial and error to a more knowledge-based approach. Maybe you regularly catch at a certain spot with a certain presentation – but do you know why? A fish finder will help you understand not just your failures, but also your successes. And once you know this, you can recreate this success more easily.
Big baits catch big fish, but this presents a problem for the ice angler. Hunting behemoth pike and muskies requires large, lively baits that do not play nice with tip-ups. Suckers and live trout are strong enough to trip the flag of almost any tip-up, causing you to waste time resetting lines after false alarms. Attaching a planer board clip to your tip-up to hold your main line will prevent even an 18-inch sucker from triggering a false flag. The added pressure of the clip, which can be adjusted, has enough tension to hold suckers and trout but still allow predators to pull the line free and run. The flag will trip when it matters, but the bait won’t have the strength to trip it by itself. Just snap the clip to the line guide of the tip-up under the spool. This will allow the planer board clip to hang freely under the water. Simply clip in the main line after setting the bait.

The Garmin Echo 551DV is one of the newer and more advanced models in the Garmin line of fish finders and it’s the top fish finder under 300. It’s one of my top choices and I really think that it’s the best fish finder for the money. It offers the best fishing sonar and a large clear display. The transducer has 500 watts of power, which allows the wave to go as deep as 2300 feet. It comes from the echo fish finder series that are known for their great accuracy.
The image above, at right, clearly shows the bottom structure—plants, sediments and hard bottom are discernible on sonar plots of sufficiently high power and appropriate frequency. Slightly more than halfway up from the bottom to the left of the screen centre and about a third away from the left side, this image is also displaying a fish – a light spot just to the right of a 'glare' splash from the camera's flashbulb. The X-axis of the image represents time, oldest (and behind the soundhead) to the left, most recent bottom (and current location) on the right; thus the fish is now well behind the transducer, and the vessel is now passing over a dip in the ocean floor or has just left it behind. The resulting distortion depends on both the speed of the vessel and how often the image is updated by the echo sounder.

Few things aggravate ice anglers more than frozen rod guides. Chipping away with fingernails, teeth, or anything else lying around can easily damage both the frame and rings of the guides, but you have to keep them clear because iced guides will weaken line, especially super-­light monofilament or fluorocarbon. There are a number of homebrew remedies for tackling this problem, but none are more effective than lip balm, which creates a film on guides that inhibits them from freezing and building ice. It’s waterproof and takes quite a while for wet line or precipitation to break it down and necessitate reapplication. A small stick or tin stores easily in your pocket, and just a few swipes with your finger on guide rings will protect them from ice-up for several hours.
A GPS is a must have for many fishers and having it in one unit with a fish detector is economical, space saving and convenient. Having the addition of a GPS gives you many benefits. It will give you the ability to mark hot fishing spots and easily return to them in the future, as you can mark the spot on the GPS and then track your way back to it later. These spots are called waypoints and on most units you will be able to mark hundreds or even thousands of them.
Detection range (depth) of a fish finder depends upon the frequency used for ultrasound transmission. In principle, the higher the frequency of ultrasound, the shorter the propagation range can be. The wavelength of high frequency ultrasound is short, and its directivity angle is narrow, which enables detailed searches, but it attenuates significantly while travelling through water. Low frequency ultrasound is characterised by its long wavelength, wider directivity angle and high level of tolerance toward underwater attenuation, hence enabling wide-area-searches in deeper water. To summarize, you can choose low frequency if you are searching in deep water and high frequency if you are conducting a detailed search in shallow water. Further, when using low frequency ultrasound, you may be able to conduct more precise deep-water searches by adding an optional Power Adapter, which amplifies the transmitter power to a few kilowatts. Please note, however, that when using the Power Adapter, a dedicated transducer capable of handling higher transmitter power will be needed.
The Garmin Striker 4 has all the features that one may desire when acquiring a fish finder and its low price makes it perhaps the best fish finder with GPS one is likely to find in the market. The advanced technology installed in the device will make the days one used to persevere without knowing whether they are going to catch anything seem outdated and very undesirable.
BUT DOES A FISHFINDER REALLY FIND FISH? Does a woodchuck really chuck wood? Sorry jackwagon, I had to go there. A fishfinder works on the same theory as deep space telescopes identifying distant stars. It doesn't see "fish" but it does see things that don't look like water. Once the data is processed, the resulting image is therefore labeled fish. Therefore, these units absolutely process the data and tell you if fish are in the beam. But alas, they don't know what they're eating, or if they're even in the mood to eat. But, I do believe that fish will almost always eat if given the right offering. But, you have to find them first.

Ultrasound frequency used by a fish finder generally ranges from 15 kHz to 200 kHz. However, the majority of the conventional fish finders oriented for recreational craft utilize 50 kHz and 200 kHz. Such fish finders available in the market incorporate electronic circuitry that can transmit and receive ultrasound in these two frequencies. Also, a transducer mounted on the bottom of the craft is configured to handle these two frequencies.
Pay a bit more and you get a bit more with the Humminbird Helix 7 SI GPS. The screen is massive, compared to other combination units – 12 inches with 1280×800 pixel resolution. The any-angle viewing and reduced glare are excellent. The Humminbird also has the electronic capability to support almost any advanced feature you can imagine, including, of course, precision GPS.
A GPS is a must have for many fishers and having it in one unit with a fish detector is economical, space saving and convenient. Having the addition of a GPS gives you many benefits. It will give you the ability to mark hot fishing spots and easily return to them in the future, as you can mark the spot on the GPS and then track your way back to it later. These spots are called waypoints and on most units you will be able to mark hundreds or even thousands of them.
Transmit Power: Transmit power is expressed in watts RMS (root mean squared) and is related to how well you see in silt-laden water, view down to greater depths and successfully resolve separate targets and bottom structure. A 500-watt (RMS) fishfinder should have plenty of power for most coastal applications. Serious bluewater anglers should look for 1,000 watts or more. Inland lake fishermen can see the shallow bottom with only 200 watts.
Standalone fishfinder: If you just want to see what’s below, dedicated fishfinders give the biggest display and the most performance for the least cost. If you have a small boat that you use for fishing small inland lakes or are on a limited budget, a standalone fishfinder is for you. Conversely, if your pilothouse has room for multiple displays, or if you just bought a new GPS, get a serious big-screen fishfinder. You can usually add a GPS sensor later to many units, turning them into chartplotter combos.
Understanding how a fish finder works will help you to understand how to use it. Fish finders work using sonar. It’s a technology that uses sound waves to display underwater objects. The fish finder produces the sound wave and with the transducer sends it through the water. Penetrating the water deeper, the sound wave starts to spread in the form of a cone (commonly called a beam). As the wave encounters objects within this beam, it sends the signal back to the transducer.

More pixels per square inch will provide better detail of structures, a better representation of what’s below you, and improved split-screen images. More pixels—higher screen resolution and a big screen—allow you to see the air bladders of smaller fish, see fish near the bottom, separate closely spaced targets from one another, and to see fish on the edges of “bait balls.” But remember: the contrast of the display must also be sharp in order to use the resolution. Like many features, you get what you pay for with display resolution—the more the better.
The use of the hook in angling is descended, historically, from what would today be called a "gorge". The word "gorge", in this context, comes from an archaic word meaning "throat". Gorges were used by ancient peoples to capture fish. A gorge was a long, thin piece of bone or stone attached by its midpoint to a thin line. The gorge would be fixed with a bait so that it would rest parallel to the lay of the line. When a fish swallowed the bait, a tug on the line caused the gorge to orient itself at right angles to the line, thereby sticking in the fish's gullet.
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